* Chinese financing taking longer than expected to conclude
* Encouraged by initial reactions from Western banks
* Chinese financing agreement due to expire end March
LONDON, March 1 (Reuters) - European Nickel Plc ENK.L said on Monday it had reopened debt finance talks with Western banks as a precautionary measure while it waits for previously announced Chinese financing to appear.
It said concluding the Chinese project finance package for its flagship Caldag project had taken longer than anticipated, although progress was made last year.
“We have continued to receive positive assurances during the early part of 2010 in relation to the progress of the Chinese project financing,” it said.
It said it is waiting for Jiangxi Rare Earth and Rare Metals Tungsten Group Corp (JXTC) and the Chinese export credit agency to complete their approvals processes for the financing agreement that is due to expire at the end of this month.
In February 2009, European Nickel said it signed a $350 million debt facility with two Chinese partners. [ID:nLJ95336]
An offtake supply agreement with BHP Billiton (BHP.AX) BLT.L is also due to expire at the end of March, although this will resume if the Chinese financing fails to appear.
The company said it was encouraged by the initial reactions of Western banks.
European Nickel, which last month agreed to buy Rusina Mining RMLA.L (RML.AX) in a share deal, said its losses narrowed in the year to end September, but reported no revenue after direct ore shipping ceased in early 2008.
Reporting by Julie Crust; editing by James Davey